Attention to a few details will transform your burgers from good-enough to spectacular. Even if you decide not to use all ten of these tips, any one of them will up your burger performance, so employ as many as you like. These are the super tips for you!
Start With the Right Meat
For juicy burgers, get ground chuck with a fat content of at least 18%. Lean and extra-lean meats make tough, dry burgers. The more freshly ground the meat is, the more tender and flavorful the burger. If your store has on-site butchers, ask them to grind the meat fresh for you. For the best grind, put it through a coarse grind disk twice (seriously, this leads to the best grind possible!).
Don’t Overwork the Meat
Before you start, a bit of dampness at the start will keep your hands from getting sticky. When making the perfect hamburger patty, remember—the more you handle the meat, the tougher your burger will be. In a large bowl, pull the meat apart into small chunks, add salt or other seasonings, and toss gently with fingers spread apart until loosely mixed.
Make Burger Patties With a Dimple in the Center
Divide the meat into equal portions and form patties about 3/4-inch thick at the edges and 1/2-inch thick in the center. Since burgers shrink and pull in as they cook, this dimple will even out as the burgers cook, resulting in an even patty-shaped burger at the end.
Start With a Clean Cooking Grate
Before you grill the patty, put the patties on a tray or platter, covered, in the fridge while the grill heats up. This helps more of the flavor-carrying fat stay in the meat. Bits of debris encourage sticking, as does an un-oiled surface and too low a temperature. You want your burgers to sizzle immediately, firm up quickly, and release from the grill.
Flip the Burgers Once and Only Once
Keep the grill at a steady high heat (you can hold your hand 1 to 2 inches above grill level for 2 to 3 seconds). Constant turning will toughen and dry out the meat, and if you flip too soon, burgers will stick. Cook two minutes per side for rare, three minutes for medium-rare, four minutes for medium, and five minutes for well-done.
Don’t Press Burgers While Cooking
This is an all too common mistake in burger grilling. It’s also one that’s heartbreaking to witness. When the cook takes a spatula and presses down on each burger, the juice just pours out onto the flame, taking all that moistness and flavor with it. Let your burgers hold onto their natural juiciness and just let them cook in peace!
Let Burgers Rest
Resting allows burgers, like all meat, to finish cooking and allows their juices, which have collected on the surface during grilling, to redistribute throughout the patty for maximum juiciness. Since burgers are generally somewhat small (compared to giant roasts), just 10 minutes will do it.
Freshly ground black pepper, garlic powder, or Worcestershire sauce add just enough flavor and enhance the meat. Just make sure you don’t go overboard. Remember, if you’re making your burgers with beef chuck, they’re going to have a deep, meaty flavor that you actually want to be able to taste, so keep it simple.